An Interview with Lawrence Whitaker of the Design Mechanism

Lawrence Whitaker agreed to discuss all things Design Mechanism with me including Mythras and the upcoming Lyonesse and Casting the Runes RPGs.

mythras.jpg

I asked Lawrence for the history behind the Design Mechanism and what role he serves in the company. Lawrence said that he is a co-founder along with Peter Nash. The Design Mechanism was started in 2010 to produce RuneQuest 6 after working on RuneQuest for Mongoose. When the license reverted to Chaosium in 2015 they created the Mythras RPG (Mythras RPG PDF) and continue to support it with supplements like the superhero adventure Agony & Ecstasy, settings like Mythic Britain, and licensed properties like Luther Arkwright.

I asked for details on Lawrence’s RPG design background and which RPG work he created is his favorite. Lawrence explained that he started writing for Chaosium in 1985. He worked on RuneQuest and RuneQuest II with Peter Nash for Mongoose Publishing. His favorite RPG work is Mythras.

Mythras is a d100 RPG with five types of magic and well tested rules. I asked Lawrence why a D&D or Pathfinder player might try it. He said try Mythras to have a different experience. The rules are simple and well put together with a known reputation for quality. There is not a lot of bloat but the rules deal with various levels of different complexity. Combat is tactical and innovative. The settings are well researched and well written. It offers a different experience. Give it a try and bring ideas back to your D&D/Pathfinder games. The Design Mechanism also strives for excellence. Quality in anything is well worth checking out.

I asked Lawrence what matters the most to him when he works on an RPG. What leads to quality? His response was mechanics. Mechanics must support the genre of the RPG. If you’re tying to emulate anything, the mechanics and setting must work hand in hand. RPGs are made up of various subsystems and these subsystems must work together to avoid problems. Mythras is elegant, functionally rewarding, and the various subsystems work together seamlessly.

Mythras is not the only RPG Lawrence plays. His game group has played Starfinder and D&D 5E. They have also played Agon, Powered by the Apocalypse RPGs, and Swords & Wizardry. He really enjoys trying out new RPGs as well as writing and publishing them.

lyonesse.jpg

Mythras enjoys continuing support. The Lyonesse RPG will be released next year for the system, licensed and approved by Splatterlight Press. It will be self-contained and powered by Mythras. Lawrence described the setting as consisting of an archipelago between England and France that is said to have sunk in the modern age. The RPG spins out of a setting created by Jack Vance. The books are evocative and filled with interesting characters and the RPG will follow suit. It combines traditional European folklore with violent action. The setting has a complex set of magical rules. Some humans can use faerie magic which is a less powerful form. Higher level magic works through demon summoning. The demons work magic on behalf of the sorcerer.

Lawrence sees self-contained RPGs, with the rules included in the core book, making a return. Lyonesse, for example, includes the needed Mythras rules in the core book. This is not to say that individual supplements and adventures aren’t important as well. While adventures never sell as well as core books since GMs need them but players do not, they are needed to show support for the core books.

The Design Mechanism is publishing an upcoming RPG that uses the Gumshoe system. Casting the Runes will be released in early 2020. Paul St. John Mackintosh is the designer writing the RPG. M. R. James wrote the short story the RPG is based on.

In both the short story and RPG, academics investigate folklore that is entrenched in religious significance that borders on the supernatural. The RPG concentrates on investigation and atmosphere. It is not Call of Cthulhu with existential horror, but is instead about demons and spirits looking to corrupt the soul, not take over the world. A Kickstarter is planned for the fall of 2019 to create artwork and provide prestigious printing options. The RPG itself will be a beautiful book, reflecting in real world quality craftsmanship the fictional book filled world of academics investigating folklore contained in its pages.

While Kickstarter is a means to open up the possibility of a finely made RPG book, Lawrence says that he is skeptical that kickstarter is able to add to the hobby in a significant way. Instead, Kickstarters with simple goals that get something into print that otherwise couldn’t be otherwise created are the way to go.

On the other hand, Lawrence sees RPG community and connecting with a larger community as worthy goals and one that might grow the hobby as a byproduct. He recently attended an RPG event that involved Ed Greenwood in costume narrating stories. It was locally staged and well attended. Ed didn’t run an RPG himself, but spun adventures about fantastic worlds that reached a broader audience. Lawrence would like to see more grassroots events like this bring together RPG players with those who do not currently play RPGs.

I invited Lawrence to share any final thoughts with EN World readers. He said to give the Design Mechanism a try. Try Mythras Imperative, the Mythras quickstart, as a free download. Experience something new and innovative. You may find something more enjoyable in play, so give us a go.
 
Charles Dunwoody

Comments

SMHWorlds

Explorer
Interesting stuff. Lyonesse should do well and continues the long tradition of interesting IP and d100 systems that stretches back more than a minute.
 

Sunsword

Explorer
It's been refreshing to see the Design Mechanism's release schedule in the last few years. I had grown so used to Chaosium's glacial schedule and it's great to see a d100 system performing well in the market.
 

Ethawyn

Villager
I really like Mythras and the way it handles magic. I'm very curious to see how the Vancian magic of Lyonesse will stand out from the "Vancian" magic of D&D/Pathfinder.
 

Paragon Lost

Explorer
Been a fan of Runequest since 1st edition. Each edition was interesting and worth a play in my opinion. I've actually been re-reading BRP and some of those books recently and pondering bringing back to life my old Thieves World campaign setting that I ran for close to 15 years using BRP.

I actually have Lawrence and Pete to thank for that. I snagged their Mythras books because I wanted a system removed from the Glorantha setting and I thought that their version of Runequest might be just the thing. Unfortunately in "my opinion" the books aren't every usable due to small font type and general layout. I understood his their points that they were trying to save money but if the books aren't very usable they just won't get used or sold as much as they might.

I snagged the pdf's to see if that would help but only a little. I almost considered forking out the money for a full blown version of Adobe software just to go through the books and change fonts, fix the layout that this would cause and then re-print the books for my own use and then I realized that my wife might just take a bat to me if became that obsessed with making the book more usable. lol

Long winded, I'm fond of these guys, hope one day they re-do the Mythras books and actually think I'll snag the Lyonesse book when it comes out, I'm intrigued like poster Ethawyn above to see how the mechanics and feel of the game will play out.
 

Jiggawatts

Explorer
This is the 2nd article on Mythras I have seen on ENworld, and neither one of them has mentioned Classic Fantasy, which is the full supplement for playing essentially D&D in the d100 system of Mythras/RuneQuest. This product would be a natural bridge between the community ENworld represents and a lesser known RPG like Mythras.

Anyway, both products are fantastic (Mythras and the Classic Fantasy supplement) and I would recommend them to anyone wanting to branch out. For those who love D&D its like getting the best of both worlds, a new type of game to explore whilst keeping a familiar and beloved style of gaming.
 
Many thanks for the interview Charles, and to everyone else for the kind and supportive words.

We have lots to share in 2020, and I'll make sure we keep EN World regulars fully informed. Works to look forward to:
  • Lyonesse (well into layout)
  • Casting the Runes (Kickstarter launching in early January)
  • Fioracitta (fantasy city heavily inspired by the Iltalian city states)
  • Take Cover! (Second in our Combat Training Modules series)
 

Philip Benz

Explorer
Great stuff! It's always a pleasure to see excellent RPGs get the news coverage they deserve. Keep up the good work, Lawrence!
Fioracitta, an Italian-inspired fantasy city! Shades of Machiavelli and En Garde! I can't wait. Robust fantasy cities have been a favorite ever since Judge's Guild came out with the City State of the Invincible Overlord. I'll keep an eye peeled for it.
 

Paragon Lost

Explorer
Many thanks for the interview Charles, and to everyone else for the kind and supportive words.

We have lots to share in 2020, and I'll make sure we keep EN World regulars fully informed. Works to look forward to:
  • Lyonesse (well into layout)
  • Casting the Runes (Kickstarter launching in early January)
  • Fioracitta (fantasy city heavily inspired by the Iltalian city states)
  • Take Cover! (Second in our Combat Training Modules series)

Oh, a Kickstarter... (twitch) I'm always up for one or three of those. :) Plus the Fioracitta sound very intriguing.
 

Take a look at the pictures and contents. Go on... see what's inside.

I urge everyone to rush out and buy these bags!
 

Akrasia

Explorer

Take a look at the pictures and contents. Go on... see what's inside.
I'm quite impressed by the good taste of "Enhance Gaming"!

Looking forward to the Lyonesse RPG...
 

Jiggawatts

Explorer
Many thanks for the interview Charles, and to everyone else for the kind and supportive words.

We have lots to share in 2020, and I'll make sure we keep EN World regulars fully informed. Works to look forward to:
  • Lyonesse (well into layout)
  • Casting the Runes (Kickstarter launching in early January)
  • Fioracitta (fantasy city heavily inspired by the Iltalian city states)
  • Take Cover! (Second in our Combat Training Modules series)
A nice slate Lawrence. Is there any news on either Mythic Greece or the Classic Fantasy Unearthed Companion?
 
Mythic Greece is still on the slate, with work beavering away in the background. Similar for Unearthed Companion, which we hope we can start editing mid-2020.
 
On the subject of fonts I would note that RQ6 had fonts that some found hard to read (ligatures) but Mythras (Current version Revision 3 Oct 2018) has a different font that's easier to read.
 

Paragon Lost

Explorer
On the subject of fonts I would note that RQ6 had fonts that some found hard to read (ligatures) but Mythras (Current version Revision 3 Oct 2018) has a different font that's easier to read.
Really? I might have to check for updates because my older revisions are really hard on the eyes as is the physical copy I own as well.

Edit: went to Drivethrurpg and checked and there were two newer versions from Oct 2018, downloaded them and did a side by side with my two previous versions and really didn't see any difference. :/
 
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Paragon Lost

Explorer
Mythras uses 9pt Baskerville Regular for its body text.

RQ6 used 10pt Warnock Pro with enabled ligatures.

Yeah the readability of the Mythras core book is what I'm talking about, or lack of. Went and downloaded the last year ( October 2018 versions ) revisions on Drivethrurpg, and didn't see any real change/improvement. I've got your 2015 versions and now the 2018 versions.

If you're telling me that the RQ6 Mongoose versions were worse, all I can say is "ouch". Glad I didn't bother snagging those as well.
 
I'm sorry you've found it hard on the eyes (I do sympathise).

One of the goals we had was to reorganize and reduce page count without sacrificing the content. A 1 point reduction in the body font (and to a cleaner style) helped with that. It won't suit everyone if course; but then we also had complaints about RQ6 being 450 pages.
 

Paragon Lost

Explorer
I'm sorry you've found it hard on the eyes (I do sympathise).

One of the goals we had was to reorganize and reduce page count without sacrificing the content. A 1 point reduction in the body font (and to a cleaner style) helped with that. It won't suit everyone if course; but then we also had complaints about RQ6 being 450 pages.

Definitely could understand how some would find the 450 page book more cumbersome to deal with size and heft wise.
 

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